Planning is a big part of the fun with family vacations, especially when it’s shared.
It’s also a key in determining if the vacation will be seen as successful when everyone is back home, especially when traveling with very young and/or elder family members.
With summer approaching many of us are planning our summer getaways with the family, including senior loved ones.
What if you’re among those planning to travel on that vacation to the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney World?
Planning Considerations When Vacationing with Seniors
As you’re planning the trip you might stop to think seriously whether your seniors would endure this trip and what might be involved in making it successful for them as well.
- Will they be able to physically sustain this trip?
- Will all areas of the park be accessible with limited mobility?
- How will the hotel accommodate their needs?
- Will there be food available that they will eat and is acceptable for any doctor prescribed diet?
- Will it be too hot, too humid, rainy, noisy, over stimulating, or boring?
- Will there be any age appropriate activities for them?
- What do we need to do to prepare to have them join this family vacation?
Preparing to Visit Disney
This might be your first trip to Disney World or maybe your family, like ours, has been a frequent visitor over the years.
We visited often when the kids were young because we lived not too far away. We feel pretty comfortable with the Disney property and the rides and shows available for our family, but there was always newness to it because the kids saw it differently each time as they grew up.
What we never considered was how that adventure would be with our senior loved ones, but are able to revisit the parks in our memories (some of which are from recent visits) when we put on our family caregiver hats.
Let’s discuss what we need to prepare for and how we will be proactive about this trip into happiness.
Traveling With Senior Loved Ones
Going on any trip with seniors requires careful planning to ensure as many obstacles and possibilities as practical have been addressed. Being prepared for as many eventualities as possible will help your trip succeed.
- Set aside clothes that will be comfortable for them to spend long hours in during the trip from traveling to a day and night in the park. Bring an extra set with you each day in case clothes get soiled.
- Determining if clothes will be easy to clean in a hotel bathroom if accidents occur or will there be convenient laundry facilities?
- Carry adequate layers for the senior who is always cold or frequently hot despite the sun, heat or air conditioning — or maybe because of all these different air temperatures.
- Be sure to have all necessary medications in the carry-on luggage so that they are available when needed and prevent loss along the way. Consider which over the counter medications and first aid treatments may be needed such as band aids, aspirin, aloe, sunscreen, anti-diarrheal medicines, hemorrhoid cream, eye drops, and the list goes on and on.
- Bring along copies of important papers and contact information in case of emergency. Have a medication list with pharmacy contact number, doctor’s phone number, and advance directives with you whenever you travel. You might consider saving all of this securely on a smartphone you will always have with you.
- Pack an extra set of glasses in case theirs gets lost or broken and don’t forget about sunglasses if your senior wears them.
- Prepare for the sunshine of summer with sun hats, sunscreen, and water bottles, which would be pretty much the same as the needs of younger family members so this might be pretty easy. Let’s not forget the rain – a poncho or small umbrella would be handy when storm clouds burst in the Florida afternoon!
- Be sure to include any special equipment your senior may need, such as a raised toilet seat, wheelchair, walker or other devices they might need if away from home for several days.
- Pack all those essentials, like personal care items, toiletries, books or puzzles, and comfort sources such as a favorite pillow.
Massive Disney Experience
Going to Disney during the summer and spending several days trekking through the many attractions and parks could be wonderful and appealing to our senior loved ones, but it can also be a source of concern for their safety and well-being.
What we don’t know is how will the happiest place on earth accommodate our seniors? Surely they have made Mickey’s house safe for older people as they boast 15-20 million visitors a year from all over the world.
There are 40 square miles, or 25,000 acres, in Disney World near Orlando, Florida. 35% of that has been developed into the Disney World Theme Parks. Needless to say, that is a lot of ground to cover for anyone, but that is especially true for many of our senior loved ones.
There are four separate parks within the Disney Florida experience, each offering a little something different, not to mention two waterparks. What exactly interests your senior is something to discuss as you plan your vacation. That will be important in deciding how much time to spend in each park, based on the activities of interest to all members of the family, well before you arrive.
There is transportation offered between the parks and even into the Downtown Disney entertainment, dining and shopping area, with a system that serves over 250,000 guests a day. There are monorail trains, buses, water taxis and boats that carry people around the park. All are handicap accessible so will work for any mobility limitations of our senior loved ones.
Accommodating Dining & Sleeping Needs
Yes, with everything there is to do at Disney World, you will still need to sleep and eat! Those aspects of the trip require planning as well.
If your senior has a doctor prescribed diet or food allergies, there are ways to eat in the park whether at a quick service kiosk or a full service restaurant. They offer more and more different varieties of foods, vegetarian options and diet related items than ever before.
There are more than 22,000 Disney operated rooms from which to choose, with a broad range of amenities and prices. The hotels are themed and include many services and address most needs.
When choosing a room it will be important to know how far it is to the transportation system, what foods are offered, and the amenities that your family values most. Do you want a pool that includes a slide or one within walking distance of the park?
Hotel rooms that are handicapped accessible have roll-in showers and raised toilets with grab bars so seniors with mobility issues can be safe while they stay. If that is needed, be sure to ask for that service. Letting the Disney staff know ahead of time what you need could lead to more services than you thought to ask for which will benefit the family.
Inside the Parks
Disney does have rental wheelchairs and electric conveyance vehicles in addition to a huge fleet of strollers. Many rides are wheelchair accessible too.
You might want to check out the Disability Access Service Card if your senior requires wheelchair accessibility. This card allows people with disabilities – as well as an allotted number of people from his or her party – to schedule a return time at a specific attraction that is comparable to the wait time when they first arrive at that attraction. This could save waiting in line time for fragile seniors and family members, especially in the Florida heat.
Disney does not offer discounts for park admission or hotels for seniors but other organizations might offer discounts that are worth checking out ahead of time.
Tips for Theme Park Safety
There are safety tips that we should all follow, whether vacationing at Disney or elsewhere.
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly.
- In warm weather, wear light colored, lightweight clothes that reflect the sun’s rays and can breathe. If needed, bring a jacket or sweater to layer on top.
- Protect everyone from the sun with sunscreen that is reapplied throughout the day, sunglasses and a wide brim hat. Plan for shade during the peak sun times, such as a nap in the room, a show or a bench under a tree.
- Stay well hydrated in the heat. Get a drink of water before you feel thirsty! Find out in advance if your destination has water fountains or if you will be allowed to bring your own drinks.
- Set a meeting place for all family members in case you get lost or separated.
- Wash your hands often – especially before you eat – to stay clear of germs and grime.
- Locate the first aid center in case it is needed during your stay. It will make it faster to get treatment if you have a sense of where first aid can be found.
- When making restaurant reservations, be sure to tell the staff about any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
- Be prepared to capture the memories!
Proper planning will help you and your entire family experience the magic and create lifelong memories too!